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What remains of the Opel employee without an Opel plant?


The ten sometimes very personal "garden conversations" with former Opel employees, including the then head of the works council Rainer Einenkel, are at the heart of Aleksandar Živković's award-winning book.

Aleksandar Živković has been following the Opel plant in Bochum since he started studying. Two days after the plant closed in 2014, he photographed the empty halls for the first time during an anniversary celebration and exhibited the pictures. He followed the demolition and dismantling of the plant in the press and spoke to some of the former 20,000 employees. His final thesis entitled "What remains of the Opel employee without the Opel plant" summarizes all of this. It was awarded the 2022 prize for young book designers by the Stiftung Buchkunst.

The 457-page book looks raw, almost unfinished. The spine uncovered. The weave is visible. "As if torn out of the ongoing production", praised the Stiftung Buchkunst jury. It is just one of the many design details of this master's thesis. "The book is a visual work," says Aleksandar Živković. This applies to the images in it, some of which have never been published before, as well as to the typography and typesetting.

The 457-page book was awarded the prize for young book design.

Garden talk with former Opel employees

Aleksandar Živković explores the question posed by the book's title in so-called garden conversations, in which he lets former Opel employees themselves have their say. These include the then head of the works council, Rainer Einenkel, and a married couple who met "on the chain" at Opel. "This substantive examination of the topic was a matter close to my heart," says Aleksandar Živković. A few of the conversations took place back in 2015, and the statements from back then formed the starting point for the new interviews, which were conducted in the Opel employees' gardens in summer 2021. The photos were taken by Melanie Grass and Melanie Sapina.

At the same time, Aleksandar Živković collected news from the online portals of newspaper publishers after the Opel closure in Bochum in order to form a new picture of "the aftermath". In his book, he strings the articles together into a chronological narrative. This chapter is called "Ordered Collection". Transdigitized into the body of a book, the online articles take on a new relevance, says Aleksandar Živković. He has also collected and cataloged memorabilia from Opel employees: Souvenir photos, journeyman's pieces, awards and notes.

Articles tell chronologically about the end of the Opel plant in Bochum.

Exhibition at "einBuch.haus"

Aleksandar Živković links the contents of the book together. "Small markers refer to other pages with suitable content," he explains. For example, he links statements from the garden conversations with the corresponding backgrounds in the articles, brings together places in the texts with the photos and vice versa. "It's not a book that has to be read from front to back, but rather a space that readers enter," says the designer.

The limited edition of ten copies is set to grow soon. Aleksandar Živković wants to talk to interested publishers about this. His work is currently on display at the Berlin project gallery "einBuch.haus" until August 20. The winners of the Stiftung Buchkunst prize will be honored there. In addition to the book itself, Aleksandar Živković is also exhibiting photos from the former Opel plant in Bochum.

Aleksandar Živković remains loyal to Fachhochschule Dortmund even after his successful graduation. He returns as a lecturer for Typographic Basics in the Faculty of Design.

Notes and references

Photo credits

  • Melanie Graas
  • Melanie Graas
  • Melanie Graas

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